The NHTSA says it’s received more than a dozen complaints, 18 to be exact, of braking difficulties, sometimes after drivers hear a “pop noise or an air hissing noise when applying the brake pedal,” according to excerpts of documents published by The Detroit News.
After hearing the noise, some drivers have reported difficulty pushing down on the brake pedal. The behavior is also said to cause an increase in braking distances, and at least one driver claims to have experienced a complete failure of the service brakes.
“I feared for my life. It is one of the scariest things I have ever dealt with,” one complaint said. “I am lucky I am able to write this letter to you.”
Some drivers say they had to use the parking brake to stop the cars, while others reported that the brake master cylinder had to be replaced. There are no reports of crashes or injuries and Fiat Chrysler says it’s cooperating with the investigation.
The investigation comes as FCA faces increasing scrutiny for its handling of multiple recalls. The NHTSA has called for a public hearing July 2, after finding potential improprieties with nearly two dozen recall campaigns. FCA says the hearing isn’t needed, because it’s already implemented new initiatives and processes that are designed to improve its communication and execution of recalls. It also pledged to listen to input from NHTSA about how its recall-improvement actions should be implemented. However, the NHTSA says the hearing will go forward as planned.
Meanwhile, FCA brands also dominated the bottom positions in J.D. Power’s latest quality survey.
All this, too, while chief Sergio Marchionne tries to talk General Motors into a merger. Last week, GM chief Mary Barra said no way to a tie-up, but right after that came word that GM is talking to investment banks about it. So we’ll see where the chips fall, as FCA tries to talk its way into a merger, prove itself at the upcoming NHTSA hearing and manage the potential Dart brake problem.